Friday May 21, 2010

Suit Challenges Regulations Hitting Crisis Pregnancy Centers

By James Tillman

GREENBELT, Maryland, May 21, 2010 ( – Attorneys with the Alliance Defense Fund filed suit this Wednesday against Maryland’s Montgomery County on behalf of the Centro Tepeyac Women’s Center. The suit concerns a new regulation that would force some crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs) to post signs telling women that the CPC does not have a licensed medical professional on staff and that the Montgomery County Health Officer encourages women to consult with such an individual.

“There is no abortion exception to the First Amendment,” said Mark Rienzi, lead counsel for Centro Tepeyac Women’s Center and a law professor at Catholic University of America’s Columbus School of Law.

He continued: “The government cannot create special speech rules just because people want to talk about pregnancy choices. And it certainly cannot target pro-life speakers for special sign requirements and fines while leaving speech by abortion clinics entirely unregulated.”

“This new regulation violates every core principle of free speech law.”

Passed on February 2, 2010, the new regulation is specifically directed at organizations that have as “a primary purpose to provide pregnancy-related” information.

According to the ADF, as currently worded the law “could also require maternity stores, sidewalk counselors, or anyone in a church that talks to pregnant women to ‘conspicuously post’” the same signs CPCs would be required to post.

“It is abundantly clear that this bill is politically motivated by those who take issue with the moral positions pregnancy resource centers take on abortion,” Centro Tepeyac states on its website.

Montgomery County councilmember Trachtenberg has made clear the motive of the regulation. She claimed that CPCs often provide false or misleading information to women by telling them that abortions and oral contraceptives cause breast cancer and that condoms are ineffective in preventing pregnancy and STDs.

However, a recent study by Jessica Dolle et al. of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center found that both abortion and oral contraceptives raise the risk of breast cancer. Numerous other studies have found some connection between abortion and breast cancer, just as various studies or organizations have found a link between contraceptives and breast cancer.

Similarly, some studies have indicated that condom use fails to prevent transmission of STDs.

ADF Legal Counsel Casey Mattox said that Montgomery Council’s practices were unconstitutional.

“The government’s enforcement of policies against pro-life pregnancy centers and its refusal to apply the same rules to abortion facilities is an unconstitutionally discriminatory practice,” he said.

“Planned Parenthood and its pro-abortion allies make millions performing abortions on women and girls in crisis, so they are undoubtedly only too happy to see the government engage in this unfair attack.”

NARAL Pro-Choice Maryland, Planned Parenthood of Metropolitcan Washington, and other pro-abortion organization and individuals have supported the legislation.

Trachtenberg remained confident that the regulation would be upheld.

“It’s pretty clear to me we have the ability to require disclosure at something like a pregnancy center,” she said. “That’s basically all that regulation does. It just requires disclosure.”

The Archdiocese of Baltimore filed suit in a similar case in March, because of an ordinance requiring CPCs to state that they do not offer or refer for abortions or birth control services.